West African governments consider talking to regional Islamists


West African governments consider talking to regional Islamists

Officials lay out stance before key summit with France as decades-long battle shows no sign of ending

Neil Munshi

West African countries are considering opening talks with jihadis in the region, as a nearly decade-long battle against extremism in the Sahel shows no sign of ending and France’s President Emmanuel Macron signals he may cut support.

The region’s leaders will meet for a summit — which Macron will attend virtually because of Covid concerns — this week in Chad’s capital N’Djamena. French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told the Senate last week the meeting would mark a “diplomatic, political and development leap” in the allies’ approach to a conflict that has killed thousands and displaced millions.

France, which leads the fight in the Sahel, has long publicly rejected the idea of talks with Isis- and Al-Qaeda-linked groups and Le Drian reaffirmed Macron’s red line on negotiations: “We do not negotiate with terrorists, we fight them”...

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